The little noticed public transportation system in Alaska’s largest city appears on the verge of getting more attention than the managers of People Mover ever imagined.
Think of a mobile version of the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” directed not at local law enforcement but at the state’s biggest sporting event, and you’ll get the idea of what’s going on.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a Norfolk, Va.-based animal rights group with its political power in California, has purchased advertisements on the sides of Anchorage buses to poke a finger in the eye of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which starts in the city on March 2.
Whether PETA stole the idea from Hollywood is unclear. A phone call to PETA late Monday went to a phone recorder that promised a media call back in 15 minutes. It never came.
Meanwhile, Iditaworld was exploding across social media with the first blows directed inward at Anchorage’s small mass-transit system.
#boycottPeopleMover kicked off the emotional venting before Anchorage artist, photographer and filmmaker Scott Slone weighed in with a more practical idea on Facebook.
“Setup a GoFundMe page, raise the money, come up with a counter advertisement to run on other People Mover buses,” he wrote. “We should be able to raise that and execute it, or at least ITC (the Iditarod Trail Committee) should.
“The approach should be a kill them with kindness approach, the love and spirit behind a race so embedded in Alaska culture.”
For only $750 a week, a total of $2,250 for three weeks, he said, sled dog fans could buy two panels on the buses, one on the rear and one curbside.
In a personal message, Slone sounded slightly more skeptical about his idea than he did on Facebook.
“Couldn’t help myself,” he wrote. “(But) here’s the thing, that post won’t do anything because it’s a solution, not filled with drama.”
Slone gets the world as Americans know it on the verge of the year 2020.
And there was no doubt a lot of emotional venting was screaming through the tubes after the first news of PETA’s latest plan appeared.
As with so much news these days, it broke first in social media. Can you say “Covington kids?”
Craigmedred.news picked the story up from Alaska Mushing News, a Facebook page, but admittedly did not hue to the PETA dictated narrative:
“In the run-up to the Iditarod, PETA has placed an ad on public buses in Anchorage that shows one of the hundreds of dogs who are kept chained up in the snow in freezing-cold temperatures—which is how dogs forced to race are typically kept—at a kennel owned by former Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey,” the release said. “Next to the dog are the words “Iditarod: Chained, Suffering, and Dying Dogs. End the Race.” The ads will run until March 17, when the 2019 Iditarod ends.
“‘When not being forced to run from Anchorage to Nome so fast that their hearts can give out, the dogs are chained to barrels or wooden boxes in the ice and snow,’ says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. ‘PETA is calling on kind people everywhere to demand an end to the outdated, cruel use of dogs in the Iditarod and urging organizers to have the race evolve by featuring human endurance racers, cross-country skiers, or snowmobilers instead.'”
That narrative is simply inaccurate. Iditarod is a demanding race. It puts stress on both dogs and mushers, but no dogs are forced to run. As a simple, practical matter, nobody is going to get from the start to the finish very fast if he or she is wasting time beating on dogs to get them to go.
Iditarod mushers select for dogs genetically programmed to run and then condition them to keep at the job by rewarding them for hard work. Some mushers love their sled dogs the way little old ladies love their lap dogs. Others look at them more like old-fashioned work animals no different from draft horses or Third World oxen.
Some involved with sled-dog racing in Alaska have been working for years to improve dog care across the board in the 49th state. PETA’s protest did nothing to aid them and may have served to hurt them.
As with so many issues in America today, aggression is met with aggression. People are pushed to join a tribe. The tribes unite as the us against the them or the them against the us.
Pick your side.
On social media Monday, Iditafans were clearly choosing a side. A sampling:
“…Maybe a call out for people to boycott the buses. Hit them where it counts – money. They won’t put the signs on again.”
“Did they mention how many thousands of animals that they kill that come through their shelters? Oh no, no, no, just pick on other people.”
“Flood the Mayor’s office and Assembly with calls and demand that they explain how this was allowed to happen. It is in direct conflict with the city’s support of the race and the state sport.”
“We are amazed how happy these (Iditarod) dogs are and taken care of. PETA needs to check out our area in North Carolina with the hunting dogs.”
“I’ll bet most PETA idiots are in total support of aborting human babies right up to birth….”
Most comments were strong on emotion, but short on thought. People Mover is a public entity. Once it decides to engage in raising funds by selling advertising, the First Amendment comes into play as Slone tried to point out.
The Municipality of Anchorage can legally get away with turning down ads that are in bad taste, but PETA’s ad – while possibly distasteful to many if not most Alaskans – is not in bad taste.
Thus, as Slone argued, a new strategy is required to fight back. Hopefully not the one used in the movie.
Correction: An earlier version of this story placed PETA’s headquarters in the wrong state.